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Respectable collectables.

2005-04-19 - 10:59 a.m.

Man, oh man, did I go hog wild at the Ottawa Art Festival this past weekend. I had a loose budget in mind of what I would permit myself to spend and I maxed it out on four new pieces of art. Well, to be more precise, I bought two pieces at the Festival and two at a private viewing.

My orgy of art buying started on Thursday in the home of Valerie Butters’s parents. As a previous customer I’d been sent an invitation to preview her 53 new works before the festival this year. I settled immediately on a large blue and yellow piece called “Venetian Truffles” then impulsively picked up a small pink and green landscape called "Changing Summer Sky" (you can see both here) when J admired it*. The friend I’d brought also picked up a lovely piece. I’m glad she got the chance because she’d been admiring Valerie’s work for a long time.

Friday night I was sneaky. I decided to meet up with Marida for a drink to find out how opening night had gone, but when I got there at 8:30 things were slowing down considerably so I managed to actually get into the show and did a quick detour to Debra Tate-Sears’s booth. I scooped up what was, in my opinion (and hers though she could have been humouring me), one of her two finest works of this show (the other was already sold but I like mine better anyway). I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make it until almost noon the next day and didn’t want to risk missing the best choice. It’s a good thing I did too, because when I went back the next day to actually pick it up someone was buying another piece and regretfully lamenting that the one I’d bought had been his first choice.

A confession: I love it when other people try to buy the work I’ve already purchased. It’s partly for that reason that I like biking there, choosing a piece (or two) and paying for it, then leaving it up with a “sold” sticker while I leisurely peruse the rest of the show and wait for J to come by with the car to approve and pick up my choices. I know it’s kind of, oh, I don’t know the exact word for it, maybe petty? And it’s probably not an attractive quality to gloat like I do, but hey, I can’t resist that small indulgence.

On Sunday I did my habitual tour-to-see-what’s-missing. Every year I get a weekend pass and every year I go at the beginning and end of the show. This is partly because I like to keep an eye on whose stuff is popular and might make a good investment, and partly because no matter how long I spend there the first day, there are things that I see on the last day that I don’t remember seeing the first time around. This time I found, in the last 20 minutes of the show, that I couldn’t resist getting a photograph from Alan Mirabelli. I’ve seen his work there every year since he started exhibiting and I’ve always admired the extraordinary images he captures. He doesn’t manipulate the colours in any way but, instead, waits patiently for the exact right moment, when the light hits his subject just right. From frost on a junk-yard car door, to ferns illuminated by the only spot of light to make it through the forest canopy, to the petals with a depth of field so fine that only their very edges are in focus (the one I chose was one of these), he captures images of nature that most people wouldn’t even glance at as a potential subject.

So, yes, it was an expensive weekend. And yes, I AM running out of wall space for my burdgeoning art “collection”. But every time I look at my four new pieces of art I get a happy thrill inside, and that makes the expense totally worth it to me. Besides, if all goes well we’ll have a baby tying up all our money next year, so this was our opportunity to spend some money on other priorities.

Imagine what our collection will be like if we end up not being able to have kids.

* I love that J and I have the same taste and that he doesn’t think it frivolous to spend money on art. If anything, we have the opposite problem – whenever I buy a piece that I intend strictly to be an investment he falls in love with it and doesn’t want to entertain the thought of ever selling it.

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